Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The world against two

The first night of TCM's Star of the Month salute to Humphrey Bogart included Two Against the World, in which Bogart played a member of the sensationalist media. Tonight's prime time Bogart lineup starts with a movie looking at much the same issue, only from a diametrically opposite perspective: Deadline USA, at 8:00 PM ET.

Bogart stars as the editor of The Day, a struggling big-city newspaper that's on the verge of folding in its current format: the publisher has died, and the publisher's widow (Ethel Barrymore, in a very good performance) has decided on the advice of her lawyers to sell the paper to a rival publisher who wants to turn it from a "serious" paper into a tabloid-type newspaper. Worse for poor Bogie, he's been so busy married to the paper that he's almost forgotten about his legal wife (Kim Hunter), who's about to walk out on him.

Into all of this floats a lovely dead body in a high class fur coat. It's fairly obvious that this as some gangster's moll, and while all the tabloids will be thrilled to run the story with screaming headlines and lurid photos, Bogart wants to do more: he thinks this is the perfect story to use as an entry into an exposé on the mob. That having been said, there's not much time for Bogart, since he's up against the deadline of The Day's sale, as well as the obvious people who don't want the story to be told. But Bogart's editor character is the stereotypical righteous and incorruptible man who will go to the ends of the earth to pursue his story and get it out, even if it means standing athwart the presses yelling "STOP!" (And yes, there is a "Stop the presses!" scene in this movie.)

Despite the fact that Deadline USA plumbs a lot of the same depths that the newspaper dramas of the 1930s and 1940s did, and succumbing to many of the stereotypes, it's still a pretty good movie. Bogart gives a good performance, the aforementioned Barrymore is excellent (it's too bad she made about 20 movies from None But the Lonely Heart in 1944 through the end of her life, but almost nothing in the 20 years before that), and there are a lot of good stock newspapermen here: Ed Begley, Paul Stewart, Jim Backus, and the like. Unfortunately, Deadline USA has not been released to DVD, so you're going to have to see it on TCM tonight, or not at all.

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